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Susan Nelson

“To serve.”

There have never been more powerful examples of this statement in daily life than right now as society battles COVID-19.

Yet, for many of us, service is part of what makes us who we are. For some today, serving is something new, something just started; and hopefully, won’t stop once this crisis passes.

For Susan Nelson of the C.M. Gatton Beaumont YMCA, it’s very much a part of her personal and professional life. It always has been, and will always be.

Susan’s Y story began in Texas in 1992, when she started working at the Metropolitan Fort Worth YMCA. There she served as a director in the Ellan McFadden Early Childhood Learning Center. 

She joined the YMCA of Central Kentucky in 2005 when her family moved to Lexington and she started working at the child development center that was located within the North Lexington Family YMCA. She’s been with the association for the past 15 years, serving in different roles including senior engagement director at the “Beaumont Y” prior to her role today as the facility’s membership engagement director. 

“What I appreciate most about the Y is its commitment to serve everyone,” Susan said. “When serving in the child development center, I was able to watch the daily growth of the children as their parents worked to put food on the table and lead their family. This was wonderful work.

“Being in the Beaumont branch the past six years, I’ve been able to play a role in the health and wellness journey of a diverse group of members; young and old, rich and poor, well-connected and marginalized – this too is a wonderful experience, a great way to end each day.”

Susan received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Northern Kentucky University, and early on in her professional career began working with those who were in need. 

Service, it seems, ran in her blood long before she started working with the Y.    

“Right out of college I began working with one of the Commonwealth’s largest social service agencies supervising three early childhood programs, six school age programs, and 15 in-home care programs,” Susan said.

Not long after the beginning of her career, Susan and her husband, Todd, moved first to Cleveland, Ohio before then being transferred to North Texas. “In Cleveland I operated an early childhood center that was a part of a community college.

“Even when I took a break in my career to raise my children and care for my mother, I taught adult education and GED classes to at-risk populations in Covington and Newport, Kentucky,” Susan added.

Susan states that her life revolves around family, church, and the Y. When she’s not working, she’s parenting a senior in high school, is involved with her older children and all the duties required of a pastor’s wife. “I’m serving the Lord while I’m serving others,” Susan stated emphatically. “Plain and simple.”

However, Susan will be the first to admit that the current social distancing restrictions have “cramped her style” when it comes to interacting and serving others.

“I’ve been doing LOTS of baking and delivering cookies to front porches during this period of being, ‘Healthy-at-Home’,” she said. “However, I believe this is meaningful work: I know these small things I’m doing make a difference in people’s lives.”

When we asked Susan how the Y has impacted her, she shared with us that while at the Fort Worth YMCA she learned about the movement’s mission, and this knowledge gave her a sense of fulfillment as it aligned so closely with her personal calling to help others thrive in life.

“Those committed to the Y understand its purpose to connect with people and impact lives,” Susan stated.

“The love and support that is known inside and outside the walls of the Y is a ‘unique thing’,” she added. “Others say we have a ‘priceless community’.

“You can see the impact of the Y on the faces of members, the conversations you hear as you pass by those visiting, or in the laughter of the children. 

Susan added, “Having a member come into the branch because his or her doctor said there is a need to lose weight, or get physically stronger – it is critical to be positive through this and get it done – to know that we play a role in this at the YMCA, helping a member laugh, live, and again, thrive…

“As I said earlier, it is a great way to end each day.”

Thank you for all the great days you’ve given to the YMCA of Central Kentucky, Susan.